All this year, buyers and analysts have been waiting with bated breath for details concerning this year’s hotly anticipated update to Apple’s iPhone lineup. The iPhone 7 is rumored to be released in September, following Apple’s notoriously routine schedule of updates. While many analysts and experts say that major changes are being saved for the 10th anniversary model next year, we’re also sure that Apple will provide the usual range of features that as Tim Cook says, “you didn’t know you needed”.
In the midst of all this frenzy, tech journalists and researchers are keeping a close eye on Apple patent filings, for clues about what the 7 could have in store. One minor patent request that could lead to some major news down the pipe concerns a radio frequency control technology for smartphones. If integrated into a phone, the system would allow an external control device to switch off the smartphone’s camera capabilities temporarily.
While Apple haven’t given any details away at this point, we’re all pretty sure we know what this means. In the wake of more and more complaints about smartphones at concerts, it’s a clear attempt to find a way to make people put those phones away. That’s great news for concertgoers, but it’s also a major ethical conundrum for us all to work through.
Sure, this control feature might allow us to enjoy our favorite musicians in a way that’s unimpeded by phone-wavers in front of us, but concerns have been raised that the technology could also be used by hackers or malicious government entities, especially in authoritarian countries like China where free speech and social media platforms are closely censored.
It’s all up in the air at this point, but we’ll be watching with bated breath to see where this all leads!
VR headsets are the focus of a big marketing push: But is anyone buying it?
Samsung made big waves when they introduced virtual reality headsets last year with their latest Galaxy phones. The devices were all the rage for about a month, but largely failed to catch on in a big way. Instead, their performance has been comparable to other wearable technology, like Apple Watches and other models. However, nearly every tech brand out there have followed suit, with competing devices from Sony Playstation and HTC among the most popular. Overall, though, they’re still in the “gimmick” range.
Now, Samsung have started to offer free headsets with every phone sold. What’s that tell us? Well, first off, it means they know about the big marketing research which has shown that the high cost of headsets is the main obstacle to purchase. However, we think it also says something else. It says that Samsung know that headsets are non-essential. They’re thrown in to sell phones, not because people really want them as part of the package. It’s like how Apple sells their Beats earbuds with iPhones. Or remember when HP had Beats Audio built into their laptops? As if anyone buys a laptop for speakers…
Here’s our current take on VR headsets. We think they’re staying out of the mainstream for a few reasons. First, they’re too damn heavy. We’ve seen that the majority of users want to watch Netflix on headsets, but having that thing strapped to your face for two hours is like the worst 3D glasses imaginable. Second, they’re just not doing anything a screen won’t do. They’re vaguely immersive, but they’re pretty limited in terms of functions that your phone, laptop, or TV don’t offer. And third, they can’t be used in public spaces. That’s super important. You might think they’re a more convenient alternative to your TV, but you won’t be able to use them anywhere other than your home, simply because you can’t see around you.
We’re waiting for AR headsets, which would have some sort of flexible glass like Google Glass which would augment your reality, play entertainment, etc. without totally blocking everything else out. No strap, no 50-pound goggles, and no looking like a massive dick. Don’t hold your breath, though. Until these become “essentials” rather than gimmicks, there’s not much incentive for companies to innovate.